David Wark Blunt has been variously described as Alfred Spatchcock’s muse and as the real creative force behind 20th Century Spatchcock.
He was born on 22 December 1899 in Wigan, the 12th child of fridge magnet magnate, William Gladstone Blunt and his wife Ernestina Fleetwood, a former music hall performer in the north west.
As a youngster, he was a keen actor and ballet dancer, but his teachers failed to recognise any inherent talent.
His parents, however, were more encouraging—Ernestina had persued a successful career as a music hall dancer until the mid-1890s—and his father suggested he should have a go at making films. For Christmas 1912, DW Blunt received a rudimentary movie camera and a stock of film. He never looked back.
He began making home movies of people going to work and strolling in the park in their Sunday best.
In 1915, he was apprenticed to local photographer, Walter Spiegelman, at his Mintball Square studio in Wigan. Spiegelman made his living by producing portraits of north west gentry and it was while here that DW Blunt met Frederick Whittaker, who had made his fortune manufacturing and selling fizzy pop in the Preston area.
Whittaker was childless and took a shine to Blunt, so when he learned that the youngster was interested in producing movies, he commissioned him to film some short cinema adverts for his popular dandelion and burdock beverage.
So impressed was he by the results that when, a few months later, his wife was expecting their first child, he asked Blunt to film the birth. But Blunt’s train was delayed and when he pitched up at Preston Infirmary with his equipment, the young Blunt was hurried into the wrong labour room. A shocked Mrs Fatima Khan (wife of local millinery magnate Jawaid Khan) found herself the unwitting subject of the first ever documentary film of a woman giving birth.
When he found out, Whittaker was furious, but Blunt was able to sell the resulting film to St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester, where Birth Of An Asian was shown for many years as part of the midwifery training syllabus.
Immediately after it’s release, accusations began to fly that Blunt was racist– perhaps because of the poor quality of the shaky images in the film.1 Stung by the criticism, he issued a strongly worded press release denying the charges and rushed to produce a follow-up film to counter the allegations.
Interminable (1916) was intended to show the history of prejudiced thought and behaviour, but at five hours was considered by many to be just too long. During its release, Interminable was not a financial success: Blunt organised a lavish tour that took in Chorley, Ashton-under-Lyne and Rochdale, but the film did not bring in enough profits to cover the road show that accompanied it. Blunt put a huge budget into the film's production—almost £20 - which could not be recovered in its box office.
Blunt soldiered on, making a number of promotional films for local businesses, few of which survive.
When the First World War broke out, Blunt escaped being called up as he was classified as unfit by the Army on account of his acute myopia.
© Copyright 2012 LEB Ltd T/A The Lost Films of 20th Century Spatchcock